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21/12/2010

Magazine Roundup

The Chronicle of Higher Education | Polityka | Nepszabadsag | The New Republic | HVG | La regle du jeu | The Guardian | Telerama | openDemocracy | Salon.com

The Chronicle of Higher Education 20.12.2010 (USA)

Peter Monaghan was gripped by a book on "Wagner and the Erotic Impulse" by the cellist Laurence Dreyfus (excerpt at Google). No one has ever written about eroticism in Wagner's music quite like this: "In one long chapter, Dreyfus demonstrates (musical nonspecialists may pause at the terminology but will get the gist) how, for example, Wagner summoned up intertwining bodies through melodic combinations and invertible counterpoint, suggested gender or bodily position through high and low instruments and their tessituras, and enacted sexual climaxes through tonal closure and percussive explosions." Wagner scholarship has never give it due credit. "Dreyfus considers it too prudish, too removed even from the processes and emotions of music making. He writes: 'What we mustn't do is switch off our own erotic sensibilities when responding to art - a syndrome that, depressingly, appears far too often in academic discourse. As soon as we do so, we impoverish aesthetic experience and deprive ourselves of the blindingly obvious.'"

Further articles: Daniel W. Drenzner explains why, as far as political scientists are concerned, Wikileaks is more of a curse than a blessing. And Carlin Romano sings the praises of the sharp-tongued critic Terry Castle (here she is on Susan Sontag in 2005).


Polityka 17.12.2010 (Poland)

Janusz Wroblewski wonders (here in German) how Poland will get its exhausted film industry back on its feet again, and he recommends a good helping of Euro porridge: "What country invests money in an art project that is of interest and relevance only in Poland? It seems like a good idea to start joint productions with big names and interesting artists. The problem is that we have very few people who are known and marketed internationally. The list has been the same for years now: Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi, Agnieszeska Holland, Jerzy Skolimowski. From the younger generation: Andrzej Jakimowski, Dorota Kedzierzawska, perhaps Jacek Borcuch."

Nepszabadsag 18.12.2010 (Hungary)

The conflict in Germany over Thilo Sarrazin (and his book "Germany is abolishing itself" - more here) and Angela Merkel's claim that multiculturalism is dead has also kicked off a debate in Hungary. The sociologist Csaba Gombar remembers that multiculturalism was originally created to counteract the old idea of the national state, which was at the heart of so many conflicts in the past. "Perhaps these days are finally over. Perhaps our war-torn world has hardened to such an extent that the standpoint 'assimilate, integrate, or go home!' will now take hold in Europe. Multiculturalism never became a reality anywhere in the world; it remained a left-wing liberal ideal that was rooted in guilt, morals and a desire to do good. It was ridiculed from the start as 'multikulti', like its close relative, the much-maligned political correctness. Both have gone from being targets of ridicule to full-blown scapegoats. Politically correct speech, most people seem to assume today, only hinders the analysis and discussion of society's problems. And in the eyes of its countless critics, multiculturalism is actually responsible for ghettoisation and segregation. As if ghettos and the various forms of marginalisation in Europe and Hungary had not existed before multiculturalism. But these have been around for quite a lot longer and they are still here today. I wish everyone a peaceful holiday season."

The New Republic 13.12.2010 (USA)

Europe is so 19th century, scoffs John McWhorter. What's the point in learning German, English, French or Italian today. After all, no one speaks ancient Greek any more. It's the Russians, Chinese and Arabs whose star is rising today. So why not learn their languages. They might be a little complicated but that only makes them more interesting, McWhorter believes. "Besides this, study Chinese and in many parts of the U.S. it will be easy to find people to practice with, as well as signs to parse and TV and radio stations to tune into. Meanwhile, how many Germans do you generally meet? Plenty, back in the day when German was America's second language the way Spanish is now. But times have changed. Chinese is, in fact, now America's third language, right after Spanish."

Mark Lilla has discovered that young Chinese are less interested in liberalism than in people like Leo Strauss and Carl Schmitt. "Schmitt's conclusion - that, given the naturally adversarial nature of politics, we would all be better off with a system of geographical spheres of influence dominated by a few great powers - sits particularly well with many of the young Chinese I met."

Further articles: The James Stirling archive in the Yale Center for British Art has curated an exhibition which shows the workings of one of the most innovative minds behind post-modern architecture, writes Sarah Goldhagen. Especially because Stirling was so volatile: He built monstrosities (like the Wissenschaftszentrum in Berlin) and masterpieces (like the Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart). Ruth Franklin reports on the mixed offerings at the film festival in Marrakesh.


HVG 11.12.2010 (Hungary)

The controversial new media law in Hungary is there to "protect the interests of the public". Media law expert Krisztina Rozgonyi (former head of the Hungarian telecommunications regulatory body, the NHH, which the government is transforming into a new, all powerful, regulatory media body) finds, however, that the new law merely reflects the values of its creators: that democracy is not there to secure the rights of the individual, but should serve the interests of the majority. Furthermore the law regards the mass media as a dangerous industry against whose damaging influence the public needs protecting: "It is not possible to retain the values of the Hungarian language and society with quotas and subsidies alone. Future generations will not be able to identify with the Hungarian cultural heritage only because they are being forced to now. On the contrary, this will only become reality if we create an environment in which every possible and viable idea is allowed to grow roots. In which those who want to actually invest money in such ideas get support instead of antagonism. In which the doors are wide open to anyone who is willing to play by the rules."
La regle du jeu 10.12.2010 (France)

Wikileaks is not democratic but dictatorial, claims the writer Yann Moix. Democracy has nothing to do with transparency. "Transparency is a totalitarian obsession. It is the paradise, the horizon of fascist regimes and dictatorships ... Wikileaks breaks the contract with Rousseau, with the enlightenment. It is anti-democratic because suddenly a man, an organisation, a man-organisation decides to stop playing along, to quit the farandole. Without the permission (or the legitimacy) of those who rule over us, but who also represent us, it is putting itself on a par with them. In so doing Wikileaks is not insulting the states but the people represented by these states. We are the ones who are insulted - in our democracy, in our freedom, in our consent."

The Guardian 18.12.2010 (UK)

Jonathan Safran Foer
has taken a scalpel to one of his favourite books, cutting up Bruno Shulz's "The Street of Crocodiles" to make "Tree of Codes". Michel Faber, who knows and loves the original, enjoyed Foer's fragile version much more than he thought he would and congratulates Foer on a clever career move: "Foer doesn't need another bestseller, but he could do with a boost to his wobbly critical standing. 'Tree of Codes' is a godsend to academics everywhere. What postgraduate who salivates at the sight of words such as 'metatextuality', 'intertextuality' and 'hypertextuality' could fail to feel a swelling in the PhD gland? Form and content are in intimate dialogue here. This objet d'art, composed substantially of empty spaces, is a conceptual must-have."

Alex Butterworth suspects that this Christmas will be the moment when the transition from book to screen finally takes off. He lists a number of successful examples of interactive books: "Most inspiring to me in my search for a more open and communal kind of text has been the use of crowd-sourcing tools by the Galaxy Zoo project to reach out and engage the public in academic research, tapping a well of altruism. By answering a few short questions based on observation of grainy astronomical images, 300,000 amateur enthusiasts have, in a matter of months, collectively completed research that would have taken a team of scientists decades. Their sole reward has been the process of participating in a greater endeavour."


Telerama 18.12.2010 (France)

Vincent Remy talks to the sociologist and editor of Esprit, Olivier Mongin, about his favourite subject: the city and urbanism. The thesis of his latest book "La condition urbaine", is that the city no longer exists. When asked about a survey which revealed that the French are scared of big cities he says: "People who want small towns want protection. But the city is not about protection, it's about public space. If you are only interested in protection, you will kill public space and kill democracy. ... We should not fear uninhabitable cities, France is not Brazil, we will never have a Sao Paolo here. But people should know what they are wishing for: museum cities like Prague, Venice or Paris - or metropolises which benefit from a certain European scale."

openDemocracy 20.12.2010 (UK)

Clementine Cecil fears for the constructivist icon, the Narkomfin house built 1930 in Moscow by Moisei Ginzburg. Half of it belongs to the Kopernik construction company which lets out dilapidated apartments to artists: "Although Narkomfin is a listed architectural monument, it has never undergone restoration. Its dilapidation puts it at threat: if it is considered 70% dilapidated, there is a risk that it could be demolished and reconstructed rather than restored. The City Government, who owns the rest of the building, is proving uncooperative and has not given Kopernik permission to restore the building, since they acquired a share of it in 2006. In the new General Plan for Moscow, approved earlier this year, Narkomfin is cited as being in a 'development zone', yet further underlining its vulnerability. It occupies prime real estate territory in the centre of Moscow, between the American Embassy and a shiny new shopping centre.

Political scientist Kirill Rogov describes the dead-end that Russia finds itself in, thanks to two widely held beliefs: "The first is society's recognition of widespread corruption at all levels of state and economic life, and a similar recognition of the extreme inadequacy of existing institutions (in the first instance judicial institutions). The second belief is just as widespread. It holds that for various reasons any change to the existing order is out of the question."


Salon.com 16.12.2010 (USA)

As 2010, "one of yesterday's tomorrows" rolls to a close, Paul Di Fillippo and examines a number of new works of science fiction to see if old age and illness is starting to take its toll on the genre (born 1926). According to his report, there seems to be some life in the old dog yet: Charles Yu's "How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe" is a literary riff on SF: "Yu's mordantly funny book follows the entertainingly dreary and screwed-up existence of a time-travel machine repairman named - Charles Yu! Metafictional Yu's drab and anomie-filled existence, dominated by his desultory search for his missing father and his on-off relations with his mother (Mom's chosen to live in a 'Polchinski 630 Hour-Long Reinforced Time Loop,' 'Groundhog Day'-style) is peppered with chronal paradoxes and bureaucratic annoyances. As a creation, Yu represents all failed ambitions and compromised dreams, his plight a symbolic statement of a generational quandary. (Yu turned 34 years old this year.) Yu has obviously ingested the vast body of classic time-travel SF, and he has formulated a consistent theory and practice of time travel, full of hopped-up jargon, which he uses to illustrate existential themes rather than produce action-adventure sequences. There are traces of Robert Sheckley, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, Barry Malzberg and Philip K. Dick throughout these pages."
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